Alex barely had a chance to catch her breath as Salinger dragged her along. She knew she should have fought him, should have at least tried to get away, but her head was throbbing painfully from the buckshot, and she just couldn’t seem to think clearly.

She felt Salinger’s grip loosen on her just briefly as he paused just briefly to look back. Alex took the opportunity, and tried to twist away from him, only to cry out in pain and shock as he jerked her roughly back towards him. Then, spinning her around so fast it made her head spin, he slammed her into a nearby tree hard enough to knock the wind out of her.

“Don’t try that again,” Salinger hissed. Alex glared balefully at him.

“Or what? You’ll kill me?”

He leaned in so that their faces were barely inches apart.

“Or I’ll kill you right now, you smart-mouthed little bitch. So if you want one last chance to see your boyfriend before you meet your maker, I suggest you cooperate. Now, move!”

He propelled her onwards, and she went without further protest, if only because she was clinging to the hope that a miracle might yet happen to save both Bobby and herself.

Bobby moved slowly, painfully, clinging desperately to each tree that he passed for much-needed support to stay upright. He knew almost instinctively where he was going, though if anyone had asked, he wouldn’t have been able to explain it. All the same, despite having trodden this path only once before, and in the dead of night, he found his way through the trees with disturbing ease.

He was sure he could hear movement both ahead of and behind him. It had to be Salinger who was ahead, while Adkins and the others were coming up behind him. Led, he assumed, by Bishop. With the exception of Logan and Deakins, both of whom were apparently incapacitated, Bishop was the only one who had been this way before, and she was the only one who would have had any reasonable idea of how to get to the ravine.

He paused for a just a brief respite, both to catch his breath and to try and turn his focus onto the task at hand. The fiery pain he was in threatened to consume him, but he pushed it away, locked it down within his mind. He had no time now to feel pain.

Not too far ahead of him, his sensitive hearing caught the sound of a female cry, followed rapidly by a harsh male response. No words were intelligible, but it was clear enough to him what was happening. Clenching his jaw and placing his focus solely on the mental image of his partner, Bobby pushed onward.

“Did anyone else hear that?” Olivia asked suddenly, bringing the team to a halt as they made their way through the trees. Adkins looked over at her, a hint of impatience starting to show in his features.

“Hear what, Detective Benson?”

“I heard it, too,” Fin said tensely. “Someone cried out.” He pointed away from them. “It came from that direction.”

Adkins stood frozen for several seconds, debating what to do.

“All right,” he said finally. “Let’s go.”

They moved on, hurrying in the direction that the cry had come from.

Alex gasped as they almost fell out of the clearing, and onto the narrow path that led alongside the ravine. She had vague memories of this from the night she and Bobby had fled Mathers’ cabin. She remembered that Bobby had been carrying her at the time, because she’d been wounded by an arrow. Now, they were being threatened by a different assailant, but one no less deadly.

Salinger propelled her along the edge of the ravine, threatening to simply push her over should she dare to fight him. Somewhere not too far behind them, Alex heard the sound of someone coming through the trees. She didn’t know who it was. She could only pray vehemently that it wasn’t Bobby.

She knew better, though.

They reached the end of the path, and Alex suddenly found herself standing on the edge of the very same drop that had left her with a nearly-crushed arm, and Bobby with two broken legs. In the broad daylight, she stared over the edge and the drop below, and felt her stomach churn as she realised just how miraculous an escape they had really had. The fall should have killed them both, and yet somehow they’d managed to walk away from it… more or less.

“That’s right, Detective,” Salinger hissed into her ear. “Your luck’s just run out. You won’t escape death this time, not you or your ape of a partner.”

“You son of a bitch,” Alex whispered, tears of pure anger filling her eyes. Salinger gave a short, callous laugh.

“I know. It shouldn’t have had to come to this, but you only have yourselves to blame.”

“Us?” Alex choked out incredulously. “For what? That you’re a psychotic bastard?”

Her head rocked to the side as he slapped her hard across the face.

“Watch your mouth, you little cow.” He looked around at the sound of someone approaching, and smirked widely. “Here comes your boyfriend now to defend you.”

As if on cue, Bobby emerged through the trees, and came to a halt just a little over an arm’s length away from the two of them, his gaze going from Alex to Salinger. His face was deadly pale and lathered in sweat, and it was clearly a struggle for him to stay upright, but the look in his eyes was pure, unadulterated fury.

“Let her go,” Bobby said softly. Salinger grinned cruelly.

“Sure. Whatever you say, Detective Goren.”

Salinger started to move away from Alex. Bobby’s relief was short-lived, though, when Salinger suddenly turn back, grabbed her by the arms and pushed her out over the edge of the drop. Alex screamed as the ground threatened to fall away beneath her and, suddenly, the only thing keeping her from toppling all the way over the edge of the precipice and plunging to the river far below was Salinger.

No!” Bobby yelled, torn between wanting to run at Salinger and not wanting to do anything to provoke him.

“That’s right, Detective Goren,” Salinger growled. “Just stay right where you are.”

“What the fuck do you want from us?” Bobby exploded. Salinger smirked at him.

“Your heads, on individual gold platters. But I understand that’s probably asking for a bit much, so I’ll just have to be satisfied with seeing your dead bodies at the bottom of this ravine.”

“Fuck you,” Alex gasped. Salinger gave her a vicious shake.

“You’re in no position to mouth off to me, Detective Eames.”

“Then let me,” Bobby snarled. “Fuck you, Salinger! If we die here and now, I swear to God I’m going to take you with us.”

“An admirable sentiment,” Salinger sneered. “Highly unlikely, though. I’m going to give you one last chance, Detective Goren. One last chance to keep your pretty partner here alive. You blow this, and you both die. I guarantee it.”

“What do you want?” Bobby asked again hoarsely. Salinger nodded towards the edge of the ravine.


“What?” Bobby asked, dazed and angry.

“Jump,” Salinger repeated. “Over the edge. Step off and let yourself fall. You do that, right now, and I’ll let her go.”

Bobby’s eyes darkened.

“Yeah. I bet you will.”

Salinger glanced at Alex, who he still held at arm’s length over the edge of the ravine, then jerked her back to the safety of solid ground. Before she had a chance to fight him, though, he pulled her around, pinning her arms at her sides and producing a knife, which he shoved up underneath her jaw.

“Refuse, and I’ll cut her throat open so wide, she’ll bleed out before she hits the ground. And then, I promise you’ll go over anyway. Your choice, Detective. Die now and save her life, or wait, and watch her die before you join her. What’s it going to be?”

“Bobby, don’t,” Alex choked out, but her words turned into a strangled cry of pain as the blade cut into her throat, drawing blood.

“Shut up,” Salinger hissed. “It’s his decision. Keep your fucking mouth shut.”

Bobby stared at Alex, helpless. The last thing he wanted to do was willingly step off, into the ravine, but Salinger offered him no alternative, and he was even less willing to stand there and watch the psychotic son of a bitch cut Alex’s throat.

“You’re running out of time, Detective,” Salinger warned him. “Hurry up. Make up your mind.”

Bobby turned to look out over the precipice, and the long drop below. If he stepped off right there, he’d go into the river below. He survived it once, surely he had a good chance to surviving it again…?

But he knew the chances of surviving a second fall were slim, if not impossible. That first time had been a pure fluke, nothing more. In the end, he didn’t know what pained him more – watching Alex die in front of him, or the idea of her having to watch him die. And then, even if he did do as Salinger demanded and stepped off into the ravine, he had no guarantee that Salinger would release Alex. In fact, he realised he didn’t trust the son of a bitch at all to keep his word.

He looked back at Salinger.

“Let her go.”

Salinger nodded.

“Sure. As soon as you jump.”

“No. Now. You let her go now, and I’ll do what you say.”

Salinger’s eyes narrowed.

“How do I know I can trust you?”

“You’re the psycho, remember?” Bobby shot back. Salinger stood frozen for several seconds, then suddenly laughed.

“Okay. Fine. If I’m the psycho who can’t trusted, then maybe I should just push this little bitch off the edge right now, hmm?”

Before Bobby had a chance to respond, the trees and bushes suddenly rustled violently, and Adkins burst into the open, followed closely by Bishop, Fin, Olivia and Munch. All five officers reacted fast, drawing their weapons and aiming them at the demented cop.

“You want to walk away from this alive, Gary,” Adkins said in a low voice, “then let her go. It’s over.”

Salinger looked over at Bobby, who had taken a cautionary step away from the edge of the precipice. Anger flashed across his face as his rage finally bubbled over.

“Okay. I’ll let her go.”

“Gary, don’t you do it…” Adkins growled in warning.

“I’ll let her go right now!” Salinger roared, and swung Alex back around towards the edge of the drop.

In that moment, several things happened at once and, when questioned later on, none of them would have a clear memory of exactly what happened.

At the moment when Salinger started to turn towards the cliff’s edge, Munch strode forward and landed a punch to Salinger’s jaw. Taking advantage of the split second when Salinger reeled from the unexpected blow, Olivia darted forward and grabbed Alex, yanking her unceremoniously away from Salinger and pulling her to safety.

With an angry snarl, Salinger staggered forward, lunging towards Bobby, who staggered and fell heavily against the trunk of a nearby tree in a useless effort to get out of the way of the madman.

Adkins, Bishop and Fin all opened fire, but the multiple bullets hitting his body were not enough to stop Salinger’s momentum. The man tumbled forwards, slamming into Bobby and bringing them both to the ground with a painful crash. Salinger hit the ground right on the edge of the precipice, and realised only too late where he was. He grabbed at Bobby in panic, and relief flooded his face briefly as Bobby grabbed him by the shirt in an iron grip just as he toppled over the edge of the cliff.

Salinger howled in terror and panic as he suddenly found himself dangling over the edge of a very big drop, with Bobby’s strength the only thing keeping him from plummeting to his death.

“Pull me up,” Salinger gasped, clutching at Bobby’s wrists. “You have to pull me up…”

“Why?” Bobby asked tonelessly, and Salinger’s eyes widened in horror as he realised the big detective was seriously contemplating just letting him drop.

“You… You let me go, and it’s murder,” Salinger rasped desperately.

“Self defence,” Fin said icily as he came to stand just behind Bobby, making no move to help in any way. “That’s what I’ll testify to.”

“Same,” Bishop confirmed. Salinger looked up at Adkins who had come to stand beside Fin, his expression hard and angry.

“Gerry…” Salinger begged. “Make him pull me up!”

“Why?” Adkins asked bluntly. “You tried to kill him and Eames, Gary. You want us to pull you up, you’d better make a damned good argument for it. And, judging by the way Goren here is starting to weaken, I’d say you’ve got thirty seconds or less before he loses his grip on you.”

Salinger drew in a ragged breath, and returned his gaze to Bobby’s stony expression.

“You let me go, Goren, and you’re no better than me. You know I’m right.”

“This once,” Bobby whispered. “Just this once… Do you really think I give a fuck?”

For a split second, the two men stared at each other, and in that moment Salinger saw his own death reflected in Bobby Goren’s eyes. Salinger let one hand drop. If he was going to die, he was damn well going to take at least one of them with him.

Drawing his knife out of his pocket, Salinger slashed it around in an upwards arc.

“Bobby, look out!” Bishop yelled, seeing the glint of the metal blade in the sun in the instant before Salinger swung it.

Bobby saw the blade coming, and knew Salinger was aiming for his throat. Going against instinct, and rather than trying to lift himself out of the way, Bobby tucked his head in, protecting his throat. The blade caught him on the face instead, slicing open his right cheek in a parallel cut to the healing scar from his fight with David Graham.

Bobby cried out in pain, and his grip on Salinger slipped. The Chief of Detectives shrieked once as he plummeted down the wall of the ravine, and then he was gone, taken by the river.

“Bite on that one, you piece of shit,” Fin called after him. Adkins threw Fin a rueful look, then crouched down beside Bobby.

“I wasn’t going to drop him,” Bobby gasped, cringing away as Bishop tried to get a closer look at the cut on his face. “I tried to hold on to him…”

“I know, Detective,” Adkins reassured him as he and Munch helped Bobby to sit up. “You don’t have to worry about IAB. I’ll deal with them personally. Now, do you think you can make it back to the chopper?”

“Are you kidding?” Alex retorted in a strained voice as she stumbled over and dropped to the ground beside Bobby. “He once climbed a steep hill with two broken legs. He can do anything.”

Bobby reached out tentatively, touching his fingers lightly to the cut on her throat. She caught his hand in her own, and gently pushed it away.

“It’s a scratch,” she told him when he frowned. “That’s all. You’ve got more to worry about than I have.”

Bobby stared at her for several long seconds before pulling her to him in a fierce hug, oblivious to the amused grins that surrounded them. Alex didn’t object and, a moment later, found herself sobbing softly into his shoulder.

“Hey,” Olivia murmured, reaching out to lay a hand gently on Alex’s arm. “It’s okay, guys. It’s over.”

“Okay?” Alex choked out, pulling back from Bobby and looking at Olivia incredulously. “He scared the shit out of me!” She looked back at Bobby and, before he could protest, punched him square in the chest. “You scared the crap out of me! I really thought you were going to do what he said. You jerk, don’t you ever do that to me again!”

Bobby smiled weakly, and pulled her back into his embrace, and she returned the hug with enthusiasm.

“It’s over,” Bobby whispered as they hugged each other ferociously. Adkins smiled faintly, then looked around at Fin.

“Go back to the chopper, have the medics come with a stretcher.”

“No,” Bobby protested. “I can walk…”

“The hell you can,” Fin retorted. “I don’t know how you got this far, but you cannot walk back to the chopper.”

“Please,” Bobby pleaded softly. “I need to be able to walk away from here. It’s important.” He looked up at Adkins, desperation in his eyes that Adkins could not bring himself to ignore.

“Okay,” he conceded. “Fin, help me get him up.”

Fin frowned, but didn’t argue. Between himself and Adkins, they managed to get Bobby up off the ground, and now stood on either side of him, with his arms draped over their shoulders for support. Olivia helped Alex, holding a handkerchief to her throat to stem the flow of blood. Munch and Bishop hurried on ahead to alert the medics that they were coming.

“All right,” Adkins murmured. “Let’s get the hell out of here.”

“How’s the head?”

Logan glanced up at Deakins just briefly, then returned his attention to the captain’s bullet wound.

“My head’s fine. You, on the other hand, can look forward to a stay in hospital when we get home.”

Deakins groaned softly.

“Why the hell didn’t I just shoot the son of a bitch when I had the chance?”

“Uh… You did,” Logan reminded him. “Fin and I are the ones who screwed up and let him give us the slip. Damn, I wish I knew what was happening.”

Deakins started to shake his head when his gaze went to someone or something behind Logan. The detective looked around slowly, to avoid aggravating his sore head, and was just in time to see Elliot assisting a securely handcuffed Brenner into the chopper.

“Where’s Bobby?” Deakins asked tensely as Elliot followed Brenner, struggling a little with his injured leg.

“He went after Salinger,” Elliot answered. Deakins started forward, and was prevented from getting up only by Logan.

“He what? And you didn’t stop him?”

“He was already gone from the cabin when I got there,” Elliot answered patiently. “Don’t know how he managed it, but he did.”

“Damned idiot,” Logan muttered. “He’s gonna get himself killed.”

“We have to do something,” Deakins said, looking around for his guns.

“We are,” Elliot said firmly. “We’re waiting. Adkins’ orders. None of us are in a fit state to help. We just have to wait. It’s all we can do.”

Deakins looked as though he wanted to protest, but in the end he collapsed back in his seat. He knew Elliot was right. All they could do was wait. There was nothing else they could do.

The sound of gunshots shattering the silence brought Deakins, Logan and Elliot to attention several minutes later. None of them moved, or spoke. They only watched and waited in tense silence, looking for some sign of what might have happened. Painful minutes passed before Logan finally stood up, wincing a little at the pain in his skull from the sudden movement.

“I’m going to find out what’s going on.”

“No need,” Elliot said abruptly. “Look, over there. Isn’t that Munch and Bishop?”

Logan and Deakins both looked, and sure enough, Munch and Bishop were coming across the grass towards the chopper, moving at a fast jog. Munch got there first, courtesy of his longer legs, and quickly pulled himself up into the chopper, then turned to help Bishop before saying a word.

“It’s okay,” Bishop said quickly, even as Deakins opened his mouth to ask what was happening. “They’re okay.”

“And Salinger?” Elliot asked softly.

“We assume he’s dead,” Munch said bluntly, “and if he’s not, then he’ll probably wish he was. Goren dropped him a good fifty or sixty feet straight down into shallow water and rocks.”

“Goren dropped him…?” Deakins asked, dismayed by the news.

“Relax,” Bishop assured him. “He didn’t do it deliberately. He would have been able to pull him up, except Salinger got smart, and tried to slash his throat with a knife. He got Bobby on the face instead, and Bobby just couldn’t hold on to him. We all saw it happen. No way will IAB be to come back at him over it, especially not with Commissioner Adkins to back him up.”

“So where are they?” Logan asked. Munch indicated back over his shoulder, towards the trees.

“They’re coming. Goren insisted he wanted to walk back to the chopper.”

“Wonderful,” Elliot said ruefully. “We’ll probably be waiting another half hour for them. Stupid idiot…”

“Maybe not,” Bishop murmured. “Check it out.”

They all looked and, sure enough, the rest of the group were just emerging from the trees. Adkins and Fin were half-supporting, half-carrying Bobby, while Olivia supported Alex. All of them were smiling.

“Thank God,” Deakins whispered. When they finally reached the chopper, Munch and Logan pulled Alex gently inside, while Adkins and Fin assisted Bobby onto the gurney that the medics had ready and waiting for him.

“Alex?” Deakins asked tentatively as one of the three medics secured her into the seat next to him. She looked around at him, and smiled weakly.

“We’re good. Well, sort of. It’s over. We can go home.”

“We’re all going home,” Adkins announced firmly as the rest of the team climbed into the chopper. “This flying windmill is delivering all us back to New York City, via the express route.”

“What about our things?” Bishop asked, frowning slightly.

“They’ll be delivered back to you all courtesy of the Wolf River PD. Right now, our priority is getting home as quickly as possible so that those of you who need medical attention can get it.”

“What about… Salinger?” Bobby asked breathlessly, wincing in pain as an air cast was fitted around his right leg.

Adkins stared at Bobby intently.

“What about him, Detective?”

“Don’t… Don’t assume he’s dead,” Bobby said hoarsely. “You have to find his body. He might have… survived.”

“Survived that fall?” Munch asked incredulously. “Are you kidding us? Who could have survived that?”

“We did,” Alex said flatly, “from almost that exact same spot. Bobby’s right. We can’t just make assumptions. Assumptions have a nasty habit of coming back to bite you in the ass.”

Adkins nodded.

“Point taken. I’ll radio ahead and organise a search team to come up and look for the body. Until we find it, we’ll assume Salinger’s alive. Anything else we should be conscious of, Detectives?”

Bobby sighed faintly, finally relaxing as he was given a much-needed shot of morphine.

“No. Just… Just that.”

Adkins smile wryly as he sank into one of the last empty seats and strapped himself in as the chopper finally lifted off the ground.

“Time to go home, people.”

“Amen to that,” Munch muttered. “Almost thought I was going to have to cancel my weekend plans after all.”

“And here we thought you were looking forward to spending it with us,” Elliot said sarcastically. Munch settled back and shut his eyes.

“In your dreams, Elliot.”

Laughter rippled through the group just briefly before a comfortable silence fell as they all settled back for the journey home.

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